In the last few years we have seen a dramatic change in the realities of wedding photography in India, as more and more women choose to take up the profession, which was previously a men-only dominated field. Do women make better wedding photographers than men? The jury is still out on that one. Most women wedding photographers believe they have an edge when it comes to capturing the bride on the special day.
“It is relatively easy for a woman to open up to another woman,” Puja Kedia, a Surat-based wedding photographer says, “that makes me a bride’s best friend for that particular day.” Others like Payal Kumar, who has been shooting weddings for five years says that her proximity to the bride and the constant attention she trains on the lady means that at certain weddings she almost gets designated as bridesmaid. Rimi Sen, a mentee in the RAW SILK program, describes feeling like she is part of the family even before the actual wedding and getting easier access to places than other photographers.
“Sometimes I do feel brides (and grooms!) are more comfortable with a woman behind the camera,” Prasheila Lookhar from Going Bananas Photography, says, “I think, in general, people tend to smile back at women more.” Being a woman can be especially useful if you are trying to get into the bride’s green room to catch the making of the perfect bride. Not all families and brides are comfortable with a member of the opposite sex training a lens on them at such intimate private moments.
It is not just a question of access, the wedding photographers we spoke to believe there is a different sensibility at play when women shoot weddings. “As a woman, I understand what moments a bride would want captured and I feel women have a keen eye for the details and the intricacies that men tend to ignore,” Puja says.
In some cases having a female photographer is indispensable. For Muslim weddings where men are not allowed into the women’s arena, and when capturing weddings in some conservative communities, only having a woman wedding photographer can help capture the whole picture.
The picture is not all rosy for female photographers. There are challenges to being a woman photographer in the field and during weddings. Payal points out that camera bodies and equipment are “definitely not woman-friendly.” It still seems like cameras were designed with men in mind, not women.
There is also the question of safety. “My personal safety has been a concern for me in India especially because I am mostly travelling and shooting alone in cities and towns where I know no one and most inquiries are through the web,” Payal says. In general, families take care of the photographer’s wellbeing and safety but the photographer says she has had her share of “adventurous scary moments.”
There are other less obvious considerations. Women who are menstruating may not be allowed to participate in religious ceremonies and this restriction can extend to photographers as well, according to Prasheila.
All said and done, women wedding photographers are seen as challenging societal stereotypes. Peach Kamath, who is originally from the Philippines but settled with her Indian husband in Ahmedabad, says she gets looks at weddings sometimes not just for being a foreigner but for being caught in unusual positions as she goes about capturing the perfect shot. Bending over, lying on the ground or just getting up close and personal may not be seen as womanly behaviour during a social function.
The one question that invariably pops up is whether a career in wedding photography is compatible with having a family. Peach is also the co-administrator of a Facebook group, Professional Female Photographers of India, that was started in 2012 and now has about 250 members. They have recently started organising get-togethers and had their second meeting in 2016. “It is a healthy group, we uplift each other, we help out, we encourage each other to keep in the profession,” Peach says, recognising that women photographers don’t just have a unique take on the world but also face unique hurdles.
If there is one thing they all agree on, it is that being a woman should not stop you from being a wedding photographer, a photographer, or being anything, really! Puja believes that gender should not be a deciding factor when it comes to selecting a career. “So, anyone who feels they’re passionate about photography should take it up,” she says. “Having a family should not hinder you from your ambitions and doing great things,” according to Peach.
Advice that would hold good for any career choice.
If you are a female wedding photographer or want to share your thoughts about them, we would love to hear from you in the comments below!